Once upon a time, the prophet says, there was contempt in and for the land and the people of the promise. In the prophet’s time, darkness prevails – a darkness of the spirit – their hope nearly extinguished. But the prophet has a good word from God; slowly but surely, light will come.
This word was a ray of hope to God’s people in Isaiah’s time. The people groaned under heavy burdens – captive, exiled, and seemingly abandoned by God…but here there is hope, says the prophet; a marvellous, glittering light will be revealed in a child.
We may not be sure that Isaiah’s generation received that promised deliverance – there is much speculation either way. We do know that these words of promise sustained many generations of God’s people. These words brought much needed hope – each dismal situation was faced with the prayer for the promised child – and so it was that under Roman oppression, people’s thoughts turned yet again to these ancient words. Thanks to a bedraggled baptizer, the people paused to consider the work of the teacher who followed him, applying the template of prophecy to yet another possibility…
Born into David’s family – in David’s city, so the story went – this fellow seemed to fit the bill. His authority grew, his influence was unmistakable. His message brought new light to dark times.
Some 20 centuries later, we have established Jesus as that promised child. We read Isaiah chapter 9 as though it pointed directly to the one we call Christ – and that is appropriate, because we too are God’s people, desperate for hope, longing for God’s promised light. We don’t recognize our oppression, as it comes in different forms now – at least in the ‘developed’ world. Our oppression is Economic, Emotional, and Spiritual in nature. WE are not beset by marauding armies (in the west, at any rate), rather we are held at bay by enemies of our own design; Corporate bullies, capitalist taskmasters and an ingrained consumer culture control our destiny and destroy our dreams of freedom and equity. We are slaves to a system that has trained us to expect too much, and prefer style to substance. We yearn for relief. we are desperate for hope, and in faith, we turn to a child of poverty, who would open to us the vast riches of God’s glorious grace.
The message of hope that the gospel records as Jesus earthly legacy is one that has endured, and grown and sustained countless children in many seasons of poverty; through many forms of oppression. At Christmas especially, the church brings attention to that promised light, and offers light to the world, in story and song – in ritual and rejoicing – as an answer to the darkness that closes down hope and blots out peace. Christ’s liberating light is our Christmas hope, and the foundation of our faith.
Let us rejoice that this light – found in this child – is ours to share.
Dec 7, 2011